The squat wooden building sat alone in the obscurity of wild forest. A dirt path into the tree line was the only clue to this secluded home's existence. As one approached the place, one could smell the fresh, invigorating ocean air that came in off the inlet this house rested upon.
Conversely, at certain times of day there was the deathly aroma of low tide.
They used to harvest salt, here. It sounds weird to me. Harvesting salt. It brings to mind the image of grizzled old farmers somewhere, harvesting gobs of mustard by the handful. Maybe that's just me.
You can walk a good distance out into the water, and it'll stay about mid-calf height... until the sudden drop-off. If you're not careful, the strong undercurrent there may take you right out to sea.
Here's the station wagon.
Dust rises in the distance as the weathered old vehicle makes haste toward the house. I check to make sure my pick-up truck is properly concealed, then I stow myself beneath the natural arch of a snapped pine tree.
Through my binoculars, I can see the man exit his car. Soon after, the boy follows.
The man is easily in his forties. His coke bottle glasses and a failed attempt at a combover remind me of a thousand tourists I've seen pass through here. The doughy midsection, concealed beneath a button-down shirt, immediately tells anyone that this man is no fighter.
The boy is about ten years old, with a wild shock of orange hair and deep golden eyes that refuse to abide by the strict laws of nature. He's beautiful.
For a moment, I think I may have been spotted already... but it turns out the pair are pointing to a bird nearby. A woodpecker. The rat-a-tat of its beak on the dead tree I am huddled beneath almost seems to match the frenzied, excited beat of my heart.
They enter the house.
Just above the door, a wooden plaque proudly proclaims that this is "SALT house". "SALT" in big letters, "house" in little ones.
Many people have died here.
Very few people know this... most of them are dead.
As the story goes, a crazy, evil, twisted serial killer used to live here. What would they think if they knew that said killer had been released due to trial error and now finds himself back up to his old tricks?
I chuckle at the thought of how much damage control the county government is going to have to do after tonight! Ha ha!
The house leaks like a sieve, you can hear the outdoors and the outdoors can hear you. However, the buffer of trees and overgrowth are quite handy for noise reduction. The inlet is so desolate, now... especially since the gated community across the way went under... that you can stroll out to that undercurrent and drop in anything you want to get rid of. Anyone you want to get rid of.
I think twenty people have ended up that way... but my count could be off.
I move to my truck again, once I'm sure they're not coming back out for anything, and I retrieve a few tools. When you work with your hands... when you repair things... nobody bats an eye if you tote around the most wicked and grimy instruments.
Toolbelt. I'll need that. Hacksaw.
God, that boy is beautiful. I hadn't noticed before, but now it's hitting me.
Hacksaw and... hand drill. Sledgehammer. I'll have to leave behind the saw if I'm carrying the hammer, because I know I want the drill.
I can't stop thinking about kissing the boy.
Within moments, I'm at the window. The man is by the fireplace, trying to get the flames to take. The boy is seated nearby, watching him. Immediately, I can tell what the doughball is doing wrong. I loathe this inept, weak little man.
A pair of wire trimmers on my belt makes short work of the phone line.
I can picture the scene in my mind. The knocking startles both the man and the boy. The man, crouching at the fireplace, suddenly stands. The boy asks who's at the door... who I am... and the man replies that he does not know.
He tells the boy to go downstairs. To the cellar. He already anticipates trouble.
Now, the man is walking to the door. I can hear his footsteps on the creaking floor, and as he reaches the door, he tentatively asks "Who is it?"
I reel back with the sledgehammer, and with one mighty blow I have taken the door off its hinges. The splintering wall of cedar takes the man down with it. He is pressed to the floor, on his back, as my boot meets the door's surface with a stomp.
With a roll, the man squirms out from under the fallen door. He lets out a cry of pain, and I can see shards of wood buried in his bare face and arms. Soon, there will be blood.
He's on his stomach now, crawling toward the phone. I could let him get there... let him hear the silence that would fill his stomach with cold, squirming dread, but instead I lower the sledge hammer across his shoulders with a resounding crack.
I would be surprised if I have not broken his spine.
The man rolls, and rolls, and rolls. He is screaming. He screams even as I lower myself down upon him, sitting on his chest and pinning his arms with my knees.
I look down into his face and grin. There are so few moments in life where one can predict upcoming events with absolute certainty, and in this moment there are two men who know the future.
He looks into my eyes with horror as realization dawns upon him. Something about these eyes seems to give him a sudden and awful feeling of absolute peace. The acceptance of death. Maybe it's the haze of murder in them, maybe it's some anticipatory flinch of the lids, or perhaps he just doesn't like their color.
I place the drill bit into the man's nostril. There is no shortage of begging. There is an abundance of profanity. In the end, however, there is only a soft gurgle. It's like the sound of an infant choking on milk.
The deed is done.
I conceal the man beneath a table cloth and approach the cellar door, behind which the boy has no doubt heard everything. In my mind's eye, I can see the outline of his ear against the door and I can't help but wonder how he must be feeling right now... if he knows enough of the world to anticipate the pain of torture.
I fling the cellar door open, and the boy falls forward. At my feet, he at first cowers, then bravely raises his eyes to my face.
I take the boy's hand and lift him up, first to his feet and then into my arms. In the cellar behind him, a bare bulb lights the most cruel and varied array of masochistic devices.
"It's okay, now. Let's go."
I place the boy in the pick-up truck, pull the camouflage netting from its surface, and locate a pair of gas cans from the rear. After spreading their contents over the interior of the home, I light a match and start that fire the man had so clumsily attempted.
"How did you know where I was?" the boy asks as we travel down that desolate dirt road, smoke rising in the distance.
I don't tell him about the time I spent in prison, about the bar brawl that put me there. I don't tell him about the doughy cellmate with the coke bottle glasses... how he told me all about what he liked to do to kids, and that after I beat him near to death for it, he swore he'd make me pay...
As children, we fear what lives in the darkness. As men, we learn that it is us.
Instead, I fish a tattered, worn comic book from beneath the passenger's seat and hand it to the boy.
"It's going to be a long drive. Here."
"But I've already read this..."
"Well, read it again. You might've missed something."